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The Buzz

Stanley Cup Playoff Buzz: Hurricanes, Penguins, Avalanche look to clinch

Capitals can claim Metropolitan title; Jets have chance to win Central

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2019 NHL postseason. With three days left in the regular season, two division titles up are up for grabs, two teams are battling for the one remaining spot in the Western Conference and four teams are vying for the three remaining spots in the East.

Here is a look at the NHL standings and everything else that could impact the playoff picture.

Stanley Cup Playoff clinching scenarios

The Washington Capitals will clinch the Metropolitan Division if they defeat the Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. ET; TSN4, SUN, NHL.TV) in any fashion

OR

If they get one point against Montreal AND the New York Islanders lose to the Florida Panthers (7 p.m. ET; FS-F, MSG+, NHL.TV) in any fashion

OR

If the Islanders lose to the Panthers in regulation.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will clinch a playoff berth if they defeat the Detroit Red Wings (7 p.m. ET; ATTSN-PT, FS-D, NHL.TV) in any fashion

OR

If they get one point against the Red Wings AND either of the following occurs:

Montreal loses to Washington in any fashion

The Carolina Hurricanes lose to the New Jersey Devils (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, FS-CR, MSG, NHL.TV) in regulation

OR

If Montreal loses to Washington in regulation

The Carolina Hurricanes will clinch a playoff berth if they defeat New Jersey in regulation or overtime AND Montreal loses to Washington in any fashion

OR

If they defeat New Jersey in a shootout AND Montreal loses to Washington in regulation

The Winnipeg Jets will clinch the Central Division If they defeat the Colorado Avalanche (9 p.m. ET; ALT, TSN3, NHL.TV) in any fashion AND both of the following occurs:

The Nashville Predators lose to the Vancouver Canucks (8 p.m. ET; FS-TN, SNP, NHL.TV) in regulation.

The St. Louis Blues lose to the Philadelphia Flyers (8 p.m. ET; FS-MW+, NBCSP+, NHL.TV) in any fashion

The Colorado Avalanche will clinch a playoff berth if they get at least one point against Winnipeg

OR

If the Arizona Coyotes lose to the Vegas Golden Knights (10 p.m. ET; ATTSN-RM, FS-A, NHL.TV) in any fashion.

 

On Tap

There are 12 games on Thursday's schedule, nine with playoff implications.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET; TSN4, SUN, NHL.TV) - The Lightning, who have clinched the Presidents' Trophy, need to win their final two games to tie the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for most wins in a season (62). The Maple Leafs will finish third in the Atlantic Division, six points behind the second-place Boston Bruins with two games remaining.

New York Islanders at Florida Panthers (7 p.m. ET; FS-F, MSG+, NHL.TV) -The Islanders are second in the Metropolitan Division, three points behind the first-place Washington Capitals and two points ahead of the third-place Pittsburgh Penguins. The Islanders can finish anywhere from first in the Atlantic to the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Detroit Red Wings at Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m. ET; ATTSN-PT, FS-D, NHL.TV) -The Penguins can clinch a playoff berth with a win against the Red Wings. The Penguins are third in the Metropolitan, two points behind the second-place New York Islanders and two points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes, who hold the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Montreal Canadiens at Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NBCSWA, RDS, TSN2, NHL.TV) - The Canadiens are tied in points with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who hold the second wild card in the East. The Blue Jackets have 44 regulation/overtime wins (ROW), the first tie breaker, to Montreal's 41. Montreal is one point behind the Carolina Hurricanes, who have 42 ROW. The Capitals can clinch the Metropolitan Division title with a win against the Canadiens. Washington is three points ahead of the second-place New York Islanders.

New Jersey Devils at Carolina Hurricanes (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, FS-CR, MSG, NHL.TV) - The Hurricanes hold the first wild card from the Eastern Conference, three points behind the third-place Penguins in the Metropolitan and one point ahead of the Blue Jackets and Canadiens for the second wild card.

Philadelphia Flyers at St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET; FS-MW+, NBCSP+, NHL.TV) - The Blues are third in the Central Division, one point behind the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators, who are tied for in points. The Blues are also four points ahead of the Dallas Stars, who hold the first wild card from the West. Each has 41 regulation/overtime wins.

Vancouver Canucks at Nashville Predators (8 p.m. ET; FS-TN, SNP, NHL.TV) - The Predators are tied in points with the Jets for first place in the Central and are one point ahead of the third-place Blues. The Jets have 44 regulation/overtime wins while the Predators and Blues have 41. Nashville must get more points from its final two games than the Jets to finish in first.

Winnipeg Jets at Colorado Avalanche (9 p.m. ET; ALT, TSN3, NHL.TV) - The Avalanche, who hold the second wild card in the West, need one point from their final two games, or a loss of any kind by the Arizona Cardinals, to clinch a playoff berth. The Avalanche are three points behind the Dallas Stars, who hold the first wild card and the tiebreaker (41 to 38 in ROW). The Jets are first in the Central; they're tied in points with the Nashville Predators, but the Jets have 44 ROW to Nashville's 41. The Jets are one point ahead of the third-place St. Louis Blues, who also have 41 ROW.  

Arizona Coyotes at Vegas Golden Knights (10 p.m. ET; ATTSN-RM, FS-A, NHL.TV) - The Coyotes, who have lost seven of their past nine games (2-4-3), are four points behind the Avalanche for the second wild card from the West and must win out to have any chance at qualifying for the playoffs. The Golden Knights are third in the Pacific and will play the San Jose Sharks in the first round.

 

Thought of the day

The Colorado Avalanche have been playing their best hockey down the stretch, going 7-0-2 in their past nine games. They need to keep that going to get to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight season.

The Avalanche can clinch a playoff berth as early as Thursday if they get at least one point against the Winnipeg Jets (9 p.m. ET; ALT, TSN3, NHL.TV) or if the Arizona Coyotes lose to the Vegas Golden Knights in any fashion.

It's been an up-and-down season for the Avalanche, but they've been outstanding since mid-March; their last regulation loss was when they lost 5-3 to the Anaheim Ducks on March 15.

Goalie Philipp Grubauer has been a key part of the run. He has started in eight of the past nine games, going 6-0-2. Grubauer is 17-9-5 with a 2.66 goals-against average and .916 save percentage. Forward Alex Kerfoot has eight points (four goals, four assists) in a six-game point streak.

Colorado is also getting healthier. Forward Gabriel Landeskog, who missed nine games with an upper-body injury, returned when the Avalanche beat the Arizona Coyotes 3-2 in a shootout March 29. Landeskog is third on the Avalanche with 74 points (34 goals, 40 assists) in 71 games. Forward Mikko Rantanen has missed six games with an upper-body injury. Asked if Rantanen could return before the end of the regular season, coach Jared Bednar said, "Yeah, there's hope." Rantanen is second on the Avalanche with 87 points (31 goals, 56 assists) in 74 games, 10 points behind forward Nathan MacKinnon, who has 97 points (40 goals, 57 assists) in 80 games.

It's the second straight season the Avalanche's playoff hopes are coming down to the wire. Last season, they defeated the St. Louis Blues 5-2 in the final game to earn the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. One more point and the Avalanche are playoff bound again.

If playoffs started Thursday

Here is a look at the matchups for the first round as they stand entering games Thursday:

Eastern Conference

(1A) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (WC2) Columbus Blue Jackets

(1M) Washington Capitals vs. (WC1) Carolina Hurricanes

(2A) Boston Bruins vs. (3A) Toronto Maple Leafs

(2M) New York Islanders vs. (3M) Pittsburgh Penguins

Western Conference

(1P) Calgary Flames vs. (WC2) Colorado Avalanche

(1C) Winnipeg Jets vs. (WC1) Dallas Stars

(2P) San Jose Sharks vs. (3P) Vegas Golden Knights

(2C) Nashville Predators vs. (3C) St. Louis Blues

 

About last night

One of the three games on the schedule Wednesday had playoff implications:

Chicago Blackhawks 4, St. Louis Blues 3 (SO): The Blues missed a chance to pull into a three-way tie for first place in the Central Division with the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators. Each team has two games remaining. Of the three teams, the Jets have 44 regulation/overtime wins (ROW), the first tiebreaker, three more than the Predators and Blues.

Video: Toews tallies in regulation, SO in win against Blues

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